Former Big Ox employee speaks out against the company

Former Big Ox employee speaks out against the company

As we've reported, Big Ox Energy has been given two citations worth over a hundred thousand dollars.

One of the citations, which they are now contesting in order to sit down and review the two together, involves a woman we spoke with today, who suffered major injuries while on the job.

Jody Lane is a former Renewable Natural Gas Technician at Big Ox Energy.

We've been reporting on Big Ox for months now, after South Sioux City residents blamed the energy company for the smell of Hydrogen Sulfide that got into some of the homes.

Most recently, we reported on OSHA fining the company over $100,000 for two separate workplace citations.

One of those citations, is an incident involving Lane, who we sat down with in her family owned bar to speak about what took place that morning.

"It was 4:30 in the morning on December 4th," Lane said, "my brother came in with a tanker."

They were taking materials out of that and putting it into a truck.

"When the truck is full," said Lane, "we turn off the hose, shut down the pump and blow air into the hose to get the rest of what's into the hose into the tanker."

Lane says she and her co-workers had asked multiple times for a "blow off valve" that would relieve some of the pressure that was inside the hose.

"And I went over to unlatch it," she said, "and I've done it a hundred times, went over to unlatch it, it hit me in the face and blew me back four foot."

The hose broke her nose, cheekbone, and eye socket and chipped over a dozen teeth.

"There was a hole completely through my cheekbone into my nose and my tooth went through my lip as well," Lane said.

She says while in the hospital she got a call from Big Ox's Corporate Office, asking if she was going to sue the company.

"They didn't ask me if I was okay," she said. "As soon as they called me and asked me that I hung up the phone because it was ridiculous."

Lane was released from the hospital at around noon, with medical costs ranging over $30,000.

She says Big Ox won't be paying for her medical expenses because she was at fault.

Her attorney Brian Buckmeier says there is a pending workman's comp claim they are appealing.

That same day in December, her brother, who had been with her at the hospital, left to go back to Big Ox.

"When he pulled his semi back up to finish loading he saw that maintenance was putting that blow off valve on," Lane said.

She says that same day, people at work were texting her and sending her pictures saying Big Ox had hired a safety coordinator as well.

"They hired the safety manager the same day that I was injured and a couple weeks we started our CPR training, confined space training, all that stuff," said Lane.

We spoke with Big Ox Spokesperson Kevin Bradley over the phone and he referred us to a written statement that says "Big Ox takes the safety and health of its workers and the community very seriously and has worked with OSHA continuously. The matters identified by OSHA in its recent citations date back to October of 2016 and have long since been resolved."

Lane says even before her accident, she was concerned for her saftey.

"We were doing it months before that and they didn't care and then somebody got seriously injured and they knew that something bad was going to happen because of the amount of damage done," Lane said.

While Big Ox says their South Sioux plant currently meets OSHA standards, Lane hopes they will make further strides in ensuring the safety of its employees.

"It's their plant," she said, "they're managing it, they're paying for everything, then they need to at least tell us how to do our jobs so we can go home the same way we came in."

Lane was fired from Big Ox Energy back in March for a completely seperate incident.

She says the company has told her they will not be paying her medical expenses because she is at fault for not following workplace procedures.

Procedures she says weren't even around until after her injury.

Big Ox's statement is the following:

"Big Ox takes the safety and health of its workers and the community very seriously and has worked with OSHA continuously. The matters identified by OSHA in its recent citations date back to October of 2016 and have long since been resolved. But since OSHA has six (6) months to issue citations, it’s citations were only recently issued. The company met with OSHA early last week, at which time OSHA did not express any concerns that matters identified in its citations were unresolved. There were no current hazards to workers or the public. There is a short 15 day deadline to either settle or contest citations. Because there was another set of citations that was delayed due to other pressing matters for OSHA, those other citations were issued late last week after our initial meeting. Those later citations arose out of inspections during the same period as the first citation. Due to the delayed receipt of all the citations, and the deadline to contest the first citation, we discussed with OSHA, and OSHA agreed, that it would be in everyone’s best interest for the company to contest the first citation, so that the parties would have time to meet and resolve everything at one time. While Big Ox is currently meeting or exceeding all OSHA requirements, we are working in good faith with OSHA toward a resolution that would include actions that exceed legal requirements. However, the matters identified in the citations were resolved long ago. "

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